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Does 'The Kominsky Method' Ending Season Satisfy Without Alan Arkin?

The Kominsky Method Michael Douglas Sandy Kominsky Netflix
Anne Marie Fox / Netflix

“The Kominsky Method” has had its curtain call. The final season of the Michael Douglas starrer goes out without Douglas’ mainstay co-star and pitch-perfect counterpart, Alan Arkin, to help anchor the series. Arkin’s exit as Norman is addressed as Season 3 opens. It is not a huge spoiler to explain the method in which “The Kominsky Method” explains Norman’s departure.

When the final season kicks off, Michael Douglas’ Sandy Kominsky is ensconced in saying goodbye to his dear friend. That’s right. At the start of Season 3, “The Kominsky Method” reveals that Norman Newlander has died between the second and third seasons. The unfortunate twist is not a terrible surprise for those us aware that Norman would not be a part of the last season.

Nor is it surprising that “The Kominsky Method” suffers mightily in Norman’s absence. Nevertheless, he has a significant impact on how Season 3 unfolds. There is simply no replacing the on-screen shadow that he cast throughout the first two seasons. This is important because, to a large extent, the Netflix dramedy has always been a two-hander. A story shouldered by two remarkable actors.

To help fill the void left by Alan Arkin is Season 2 newcomer, Paul Reiser as Mindy’s boyfriend Martin, and Kathleen Turner as Mindy’s mother. Norman’s troubled daughter, played by the terrific Lisa Edelstein, is also back for good measure alongside Haley Joel Osment as Norman’s grandson. For whatever reason, “The Kominsky Method” does itself a great disservice with Martin’s arc in Season 3.

The discombobulation continues as Season 3 introduces another mournful storyline into Sandy’s atmosphere. The one-time scene-stealing Martin goes from Sandy’s friend to a whiny, insecure, and unrecognizable iteration of his former self. This U-turn coupled with fewer episodes and a subplot about Mindy coming into a fortune makes “The Kominsky Method” feel off-kilter.

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Life is filled with highs and lows where tragedies abound, but Sandy’s life is too rife with them. At least, for a TV character not on “Grey’s Anatomy.” In earlier seasons, the beauty of “The Kominsky Method” was its ability to fixate on tough and sad material without getting too downbeat. Unfortunately, Season 3 loses that charm.

Between Sandy facing death through those around him to Martin’s about-face from the incredibly likable character he was last season, “The Kominsky Method” loses a beat. To say that the final season satisfies would be a complex argument to win when so much leaves a bad taste.

Where life and series might take unsettling routes, they can be mustered if what remains is true to itself. In many ways, the final season of “The Kominsky Method” is tough to recognize, with Michael Douglas’ saliently poignant performance as Sandy, the sole surviving cornerstone. Fun guest stars like Douglas’ “Last Vegas” co-star Morgan Freeman also help brighten the load.

It is tough to say what this viewer hoped to see by going back to the well again for Season 3. For one, it was the chance to see Michael Douglas’ unexpected buddy chemistry with Paul Reiser take center stage. But, sadly, the dye that had gotten cast for such a mighty tale last season gets broken and never recovers during the final season. Why?

That question continues to nag me long after watching Season 3. It feels as though “The Kominsky Method” had something more befitting of Martin up its sleeve, only to have nothing happen once those sleeves got rolled up. So, how does it all end? Is the ending in and of itself at least satisfying?

Spoilers for the ending of “The Kominsky Method” Season 3 get discussed below.

Roz, Sandy’s ex, with whom he rekindles a tender friendship in Season 3, ultimately passes away from leukemia. However, before she departs, Roz officiates Mindy’s marriage to Martin. (Yes, Mindy and Martin get married.) Martin’s difficult mother comes to live with him and Mindy, and she survives a life-threatening health event that leaves her unable to speak.

Despite all of Season 3’s tragedy, Sandy finally gets his big break, starring in Barry Levinson’s adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea.” Then, in the final minutes of “The Kominsky Method,” Sandy earns recognition by his peers when he wins an Emmy award for Best Lead Actor in a TV Movie or Miniseries. Sandy’s protégée, Margaret (Melissa Tang), also wins an Emmy for her role in the “Quincy, M.E.” reboot.

Mindy is there to support her father, who gives an affecting speech. Sandy has succeeded in getting recognition as an actor and an acting teacher with an awards victory to his name and that of his student. Thus, releasing himself of the (offensive) implication of the “those who can’t do, teach” adage. With that, “The Kominsky Method” ends on a feel-good note.

Is the ending satisfying?

It is fair to say that in and of itself, “The Kominsky Method” sticks the ending. The endgame also matches up. Mind you, the ending is not a “Game of Thrones” situation by any means. My only problem lies in how out-of-character the characters are written, except for Sandy, Mindy, and Margaret. Even Jane Seymour’s likable Madelyn gets a jarring take in Season 3.

The Martin/Sandy dynamic featured in the second season could have fueled the show indefinitely. Nevertheless, that did not adhere. Had Martin been written more akin to his original iteration, I would be mourning “The Kominsky Method” more right now. That said, it will be impossible not to miss the starring power of Michael Douglas, who never disappoints.

“The Kominsky Method” was the platform he deserved. Hopefully, Douglas, like Sandy, receives the recognition he deserves come awards season. That said, the Emmys are a battleground for disappointment, so I will not rest all of my hopes on it. Thanks for the memories, “Kominsky Method.”

To conclude, it is tough to follow Alan Arkin and Norman. “The Kominsky Method” tries hard yet ties its hands by tweaking with its established characters into unrecognizable shells of themselves. So, should you binge-watch the show? Still have to vote a “yes” to that. After all, the ending does not undermine the first two seasons enough to justify skipping this otherwise delightful series. All three seasons are streaming on Netflix.

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